Lessons from SXSW: Mobile Event Optimization

This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of GES as a brand.

Colin Gilligan is a dancer, dreamer, and a self-proclaimed cultural anthropologist. He is the Lead Account Planner at Tocquigny, one of GES’ partner agencies, where he has engineered innovative new media communications solutions for countless clients.

Sure, you’ve heard about optimizing your websites for mobile? But, have you optimized your event for mobile?? The SXSW Interactive Conference has just come to a close – and what a blur! If you know SXSW, you know that the Interactive Conference “features five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders, […] and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new digital works, video games and innovative ideas the international community has to offer.” Everyone keeps a close eye on the conference for emerging marketing trends (heck, we even built a trend-tracking tool, BuzzBrawl – and it got featured on CNN).

But, one thing some might have overlooked was the SXSW event itself. Within it are lessons for all of us on how to optimize an event.

Admittedly, I live in a completely mobile world. I haven’t owned a home land line in over eight years. I probably answer more email on my iPhone or my iPad than my iBook. So, mobile optimization is key in engaging with me. Certainly, market trends reveal I’m not the only mobi-phile out there either.

Appropriately (and most likely to avoid scrutiny from folks like me), SXSW features some great mobile integration that made my event experience more efficient and more enjoyable – and I’m sure they’re loving the data they’ve received on the back-end.

First win: the SXSW Go application, a native application for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows 7, where I could read session descriptions, add events to my calendar, look at friends’ calendars and immediately provide feedback on sessions (in fact, at the end of the conference SXSW awarded the presenter who received the most in-application votes).

Second win: Partnerships with mobile geo-location sharing applications, like Gowalla. As an already-active user of Gowalla, it was a pleasure to open the application and view a promotional SXSW banner, which (when clicked) listed all the session names, included descriptions and allowed me to physically check-in to each session I attended and share my activity in a way I’m used to doing. I earned special SXSW badges as I checked in at more and more sessions. Some badges were even redeemable for physical swag at a Gowalla Airstream trailer nearby. Now, that’s offline-online interaction. Consider the benefits of developing a native application or a mobile-optimized web application. Explore partnership opportunities with already-existing and popular mobile platforms, like Gowalla, Foursquare, or SCVNGR (Neiman Marcus is doing it in their stores, you can do it at your events). Your attendees are on-the-go throughout your events, so make sure you’re providing utility at the palm of their hands.

How have you optimized your event for mobile? Share your story on GES’ Facebook page.

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